On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced his intention to mobilize the entire federal government in an effort to subvert the Supreme Court’s decision to allow Texas’ newly minted abortion law to go into effect while it’s challenged in court.
The law, which became effective Wednesday, only allows abortion before a fetal heartbeat is detected, which occurs at approximately six weeks into gestation.
Pro-life advocates have noted that these parameters make the Texas law “the strongest pro-life law” in America.
The new Texas law would ensure legal protection for all preborn children with a detectable heartbeat – which is around 6 weeks old. A huge step towards human rights for all.
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) August 31, 2021
In a 5-4 decision published Wednesday, the Supreme Court declined to issue an injunction against the law, in a move that Biden described as “an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights under Roe v. Wade.”
The majority allowing the law to take effect were Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
Dissenting were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The majority’s unsigned opinion, and the dissents, are embedded below:
In a statement released by the White House Thursday, Biden announced he is coordinating “a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision,” which he claims was made in “error.”
“One reason I became the first president in history to create a Gender Policy Council was to be prepared to react to such assaults on women’s rights,” Biden wrote.
“Hence, I am directing that Council and the Office of the White House Counsel to launch a whole-of-government effort to respond to this decision, looking specifically to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to see what steps the Federal Government can take to ensure that women in Texas have access to safe and legal abortions as protected by Roe, and what legal tools we have to insulate women and providers from the impact of Texas’ bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement to private parties.”
One of the primary reasons the Supreme Court decided to uphold the law was precisely due to what Biden characterized as a “bizarre scheme of outsourced enforcement.”
The law circumvents abortion-law precedents such as Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey by placing enforcement in the hands of private individuals.
As the SCOTUSblog summary of the court’s case notes, in order “to make it harder to challenge the law in court” the law “does not rely on government officials to enforce the ban,” instead allowing “private individuals to bring lawsuits against” anyone who helps facilitate an abortion, including abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” an abortion.
A successful lawsuit against such parties could lead to an award of as much as $10,000.
Despite the court’s decision, the fight over Texas’ abortion ban is far from over.
In Wednesday’s decision, the court majority “acknowledged that the providers had ‘raised serious questions regarding the constitutionality of the Texas law,'” although not enough that they could prevent the law from going into effect.
Pro-abortion advocates, abortion providers and the Democratic party will continue to explore these questions in the coming months as they attempt to overturn Texas‘ new protection of unborn children.
And, if Biden holds true to his word, the entire federal government will be mobilized to do so as well.
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